We have welcomed 164 active volunteers to assist us with the running of the shelter this winter, including almost 40 new volunteers.
Our volunteers dedicated a total of 5300 hours to us, to provide a lifesaving service to our guests. We operated the Day Club for 99 days and 92 nights around the venues this winter. We stopped counting the cups of teas and coffees after the first few days (the amount of sugar used by our guests was staggering!).
As well as an alarming shortage of affordable accommodation in Folkestone and Hythe, within both social and private sector, we are witnessing an increasing number of vulnerable people locally who are presenting at the Rainbow Centre with multiple complex needs. This is not a good combination and the effect on homelessness in Folkestone and Hythe is clearly demonstrated in this report.
The Homeless Support Team at the Rainbow Centre, together with other agencies locally, conduct outreach mornings and late evenings on regular basis. Together, we estimate there are over 20 rough sleepers in Folkestone and Hythe area currently. There is also the annual street count organized by Folkestone and Hythe District Council. On the day of the count in autumn 2019, there were 10 people found sleeping rough on the streets of Folkestone. This number is lower due to the strict guidance councils are asked to adhere to when verifying the data for central government.
At the Rainbow Centre, our daily work is greatly affected by the lack of affordable housing, as well as increasing number of guests with multiple needs, not always directly connected with their housing situation. We see people with addictions, those with limited access to benefits and increasingly in the recent years a higher number of people with mental health issues. The number of guests from abroad accessing the shelter is, however, decreasing.
Whilst 13 weeks of intensive daily work with clients on the shelter has definitely proved as the best approach when tackling homelessness, many of our guests simply needed a rest and a safe space to stay. The main aim of the Winter Shelter is to provide an evening and night shelter for homeless people in Folkestone using church buildings and volunteers through the coldest period of the winter. We have offered exactly this to people with deep rooted problems and poor engagement with other services locally. We encourage guests who we were unable to help to continue working with us at the Homeless Support Service, which is open all year at the Rainbow Centre.
You can view the full Winter Shelter Report 2019/20